It's startlingly easy to let my natural cynicism overwhelm me, since we live in a world almost deafened by a cacophony made up of angry voices. We are scared of the future, and what it might hold for us, or for our children, or for their children. War is an everyday fact of life, impoverishment and disease are just as problematic as they were decades ago, and it isn't hard to look at declining opportunity and standards of living and feel that our greatest days as a nation are behind us.
Not long ago I experienced something purely incidental, an accident of timing that made me feel a sense of what is possible even in an era of limited prospects and diminished hope. I thought it would be well worth mentioning, because it's exactly the kind of thing that happens every day, all across the country, in every town and city, but goes unnoticed precisely because it IS the kind of thing that happens everyday, everywhere.
I was on the way to work, and I parked outside the downtown building that contained the client's apartment. It was a Sunday afternoon, and a cloudy, grey one at that. Rain was falling, more of a soft patter than real drizzling rain, but it was still kind of day you wanted to spend indoors if you could.
When I got out of my truck, I couldn't help but notice one lone figure on the local high school's track field. Out there, in the rain, on an unremarkable Sunday afternoon, there was just one lone teenager running hurdles.
There was no one cheering him, and no one watching him that I could see in any direction. He was alone and had to move the hurdles into position on his own, and put them back into position whenever he knocked one over. There were no coaches and no parents, no pressure to achieve from any angle. It was just a kid who was willing to spend his weekend afternoon alone, in the rain, striving to be better, to be faster, to be more ready to compete against his peers.
If that spirit is alive in just a few people in every town and city in this country, then I know that whatever comes, politically or socially, can be dealt with in good order. In that kid lived proof that there are people who are unafraid of hardship to achieve a goal. People who are dogged and determined, require no pushing from others to achieve great things, and who can rise above petty interests to reach toward victory.
That young person was the face of the future I sometimes forget. It was a sobering reminder that the torch is always in the process of being passed, and that it never remains still. As I am aging and growing slower, another generation is at its peak, and yet another is only just beginning to hit its stride, and another, younger still, is preparing for a time when the torch will begin to pass into their hands.
If we turn away from the television and the computer, shut off the dizzying, deafening thunder of our media, and look to our own cities and towns, it is there that we will find the future, struggling in the face of adversity, silent, stoic and brave. It is not televised or sponsored, not advertised or ballyhooed, and oftentimes it isnt even rewarded with praise. It isn't a product or a dogma, and it can't be counted or quantified in convenient formulas, and so it slips past us, largely unnoticed, while we glumly assume that the world is doomed for lack of capable hands to manage its future.
I'll rant and fume another time, but today...today I will remember the future, and remember that somewhere, someone is ready to take up the tasks that will face them, and I will be at peace.